The architects of thrash dust off some old blueprints.
Metallica’s last three albums have seen the band sink progressively deeper into schlocky grunge and nü-metal—an indignity magnified by big-screen depictions of egomania and creative exhaustion. For Death Magnetic, the group was tasked by production maven Rick Rubin to reverse course and recapture the raw vigor of their early work. The result is a superb return to form that refines familiar touchstones: riotous instrumentation, E-tuned guitar solos and robust melodies.
James Hetfield conjures his characteristic growl and lobs some impassioned metal mantras on the album’s 10 tracks: “new consequence machine / burn through all your gasoline / asylum overtime, never mind / you’ve reached the end of the line”. “All Nightmare Long” recalls the Middle Eastern-flavored prog meanderings of …And Justice For All, and “That Was Just Your Life” takes the instrumental style of Metallica’s mid-'80s catalog and adds a slathering of infectious hooks. “My Apocalypse” closes the album on a high water mark by evoking Master of Puppets with layers of panoramic technical shredding over staccato riffs and drum fills.
Metallica hasn’t sounded this energized and dynamic since the band rose to prominence as pugnacious up-and-comers in the west coast's metal scene. Death Magnetic is more than a paean to all things thrash—it’s the revivification of ambition dormant for nearly two decades.